good night & good luck – buddhism & standing up for things

my daughter and i just went to see good night and good luck, george clooney’s movie about the mccarthy era. apart from the fact that it is a marvelous movie – great camera and great acting – the story made me think about something that has been on my mind quite a bit lately.

in the movie, people struggle with an oppressive political system (instigated largely by senator mccarthy) that attempts to control people’s thoughts and acts. a man gets fired for reading the wrong newspaper and other (apparently unfounded) unpatriotic activities, and his son is called upon to publicly condemn his father’s alleged anti-american actions. CBS reporters get wind of this and, working against the prevailing political climate, expose the story, which ultimately leads to mccarthy’s demise.

how does that apply to our lives today? what sort of oppressive systems am i dealing with, are you dealing with? are there any people or entitites that attempt to control us? can we find the courage to expose and dissolve this control?

one of the oppressive systems i am dealing with, for sure, is my own system of voices that tell me i’m not good enough, not professional enough, that i should act small, that i need to content myself with limited success, etc. talking about movies – this oppression reminds me of the klaus kinski horror flick crawl space: a hidden, life-destroying, all-pervasive voice which, through a system originally intended for a good purpose (heating/ventilation) , has access to me anywhere. again, this voice can be fought by diligently and courageously seeking out and dealing with its origin.

the buddhist in me says that there are further ways of dealing with those voices. tibetan buddhist pema chodron might suggest to listen to them, acknowledge them and pay attention to how my body responds to them. does my throat constrict, do my knees feel weak? i may be able to walk through these sensations to the light, where these voices become irrelevant.

another buddhist approach might be to realize that these voices are indeed, well, just a movie. a movie i am choosing to watch. they are not reality. the more i realize how much they are just a movie – canned, artificial, two-dimensional, out there on a screen – the more i might be able to realize that i have a choice of whether to watch the movie and how to be affected by it.

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